Head coach Dan Hughes and his players may have to change up the game plan for Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.
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This year, San Antonio is 3-0 in do-or-die situations after winning a deciding Game 3 in overtime against a stingy Sacramento team and rallying from 0-1 down to take two straight in a dramatic series win against the Sparks. In such games, Becky Hammon has averaged 22.7 points, including a playoff career-high 35 in Game 3 versus L.A., and Sophia Young has averaged 22.0.
“I feel you're never going to see me give up, ever,” said Hammon. “So I don't think my team will ever. That's not in our DNA, to give up.”
Dating back to last year, the Silver Stars are 5-1 overall in elimination games, with the only loss coming in last year’s Western Conference Finals against Phoenix.
However, none of those victories came on the road and the one loss did. And facing elimination on the road is just where the Silver Stars find themselves after a stunning couple of games at the AT&T Center to kick off the 2008 WNBA Finals.
San Antonio hasn’t done much to lead people to believe they are capable of climbing out of the 0-2 hole suddenly engulfing them. The team’s offensive schemes have been frustrated by Detroit’s suffocating defense, the Big Three has yet to put together a complete game and the Stars haven’t had an answer for Katie Smith all series.
“Katie Smith has just been killing us,” said Hammon. “So we're going have to find a solution for her. She's facilitating a lot of people. You know, so we just have to find ways. And this team has always found ways. We're a very good road team.”
Indeed, San Antonio’s silver lining entering Game 3 is that it owned the league's top road record during the regular season. However, that’s tempered by the fact that the Stars were just one game over .500 (9-8) and 2008 was an especially horrid year for road play across the league.
On the flip side, Detroit posted an impressive home mark of 14-3 this season, but there’s also a caveat to that. Game 3 won’t be a typical home game for the Shock, as it will take place at the Convocation Center at Eastern Michigan University and not the Palace of Auburn Hills, which would host Game 4 should the series extend that far. It should be noted though that Detroit won both of its games played – both close affairs -- at the Convocation Center in the previous round against the New York Liberty.
“We just haven't played good enough basketball yet and they have,” said Hughes. “We're not real good on excuses here, and we've won enough that we take ownership. We will be open-minded about what Game 3 will bring.”
Since the WNBA went to the best-of-five format for the Finals in 2005, not only has no team ever fallen behind 0-2 after dropping the first two games at home. No team has fallen behind 0-2 period. There have been instances when the Finals was best-of-three in which the eventual champion lost the opener, but like the Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals of the current playoffs, Game 1 was held in the arena of the lower seed.
The Stars could find hope in the fact that just last year the Shock held a 2-1 series edge against the Mercury before Phoenix squeaked out a Game 4 victory and then cruised to a Game 5 triumph on the Shock’s home court. Granted, it wasn’t the uphill climb San Antonio is now facing, but the Mercury’s comeback signaled that a series can turn on just a matter of stringing together a few made shots.
If San Antonio can take anything else positive out of being down 0-2 it’s that the seemingly insurmountable odds allow it to take some risks, or at least try something a little less predictable. Such a mentality could make the Stars looser and more aggressive, which, in turn, could help them shoot better from the outside.
And let’s face it, while the Shock are in the driver’s seat, the pressure has shifted to them now to close out this series with Games 3 and 4 in their backyard.
“It’ll be a first to come back from being down 0-2, but we think that we are still playing for a championship,” said Erin Buescher. “We are playing to win.”